OPINION

Free education: The two lies

There are two problems with Greece’s so-called «free education.» First, it’s not free. Second, it’s not really an education. According to data released by the country’s National Statistics Service (NSS), virtually all households, regardless of their economic background, are forced to spend money to put their children through state education. Wealthy and poor families alike spend almost 200 euros a month to fill the holes in the state education system. In other words, bad education, although state-funded, is never free. Everyone has to pay; not just for student accommodation, books and other necessary material but also for services which are supposedly offered free of charge. «Free education» is not the sole term abused in Greece. The same is true about the so-called «free healthcare» as private expenditure almost matches that of the state – without taking into account what is usually dubbed the black economy of the health sector, such as bribes to speed up procedures or to ensure quality treatment at state clinics. In Greece basic services are purportedly provided free of charge but people realize that nothing will be done without their own economic contribution. The underfunding of state education is a serious problem. We must find a solution, but first we must make sure that the money will not be wasted. Given the sorry state of public education, we are like people making their way in the dark. There is no evaluation of the system and we don’t even know which activities deserve to be funded. In the end, the statistics merely prove the failures. The first step to acquiring free education is to actually acquire education per se. So long as the system is counterproductive, parents will continue to put their hands deep into their pockets to make up for the deficits. This calls for some serious thinking by those who unthinkingly turn down every bid for reform.